Sleeping on your side is one of the most common and recommended sleep positions. Side sleeping aligns your spine and can reduce snoring and sleep apnea. But without the proper mattress firmness, side sleeping can lead to pressure points and pain in your shoulders, hips and back.
This leads many side sleepers to believe they need a very soft mattress. But is a super plush mattress actually the best choice for side sleepers?
This article will examine how mattress firmness impacts comfort and support for side sleepers. We’ll provide tips on choosing the right mattress softness whether you sleep mostly or exclusively on your side.
Let’s evaluate whether side sleepers need a softer mattress or if a medium firmness may be better.
How Mattress Firmness Impacts Side Sleepers
Mattress firmness or softness levels affect side sleepers in a few key ways:
Pressure Point Relief
Softer mattresses cushion areas like the shoulders and hips which bear more weight in the side position. This cushioning helps relieve pressure points that can build up overnight.
However, too soft of a mattress may let those areas sink in too deeply, putting extra strain on your joints. Finding the sweet spot is key.
Medium and medium-soft mattresses will gently conform around your waist and fill space beneath to keep your spine aligned. Super soft mattresses may let your spine curve out of its natural neutral position.
Ease of Changing Positions
Softer mattresses allow you to sink into the comfort layers, which can make it harder to change positions. Medium firm beds offer the best combination of contouring and mobility.
As you evaluate mattress options, think about how the firmness impacts pressure relief, support, and ease of movement for side sleeping.
Benefits of Softer Mattresses for Side Sleepers
Here are some potential advantages softer mattresses offer for side sleepers:
Softer foam comfort layers cushion areas like your shoulders and hips to relieve pressure points. Side sleepers often prefer the deep contouring of a soft mattress.
Plush soft mattresses provide a deeply hugging feel that many side sleepers find comfortable and enjoyable. You sink into the mattress rather than feeling materials push back against you.
Extra soft mattresses conform closely to match the curves of your unique body type and sleep position. This close contouring adapts well to side sleepers.
People under 130 pounds often prefer a softer mattress that allows more sinking around the shoulders and hips. Heavier individuals require more support.
Softer mattresses can certainly provide comfortable cushioning and pressure relief for some side sleepers. But there are also some potential downsides.
Drawbacks of Too Soft Mattresses for Side Sleepers
While soft mattresses have benefits, they can also lead to these issues for side sleepers:
Super soft mattresses may lack adequate support, especially for those over 130 pounds. Your midsection can sink too far down, straining your hips and spine.
Shoulder and Hip Pain
Excessive sinking around the shoulders and hips throws your spine out of alignment and can worsen pain over time. You need some lift beneath these areas.
Difficulty Switching Positions
Deeply contouring mattresses can almost “hug” you into one position. This makes it harder to change positions naturally during the night.
Lack of Durability
The softest foam mattresses lose their shape and resiliency faster. This allows your body to sink too far in, shortening the lifespan of your mattress.
Plush soft mattresses are more likely to retain heat since your body sinks in. Make sure softer beds have cooling features to maintain a comfortable temperature.
While a super soft mattress may feel comfortable at first, it can lead to increased discomfort, poor sleep posture, and back pain over time for strict side sleepers.
What Firmness Level Is Best for Side Sleepers?
Here are some guidelines for choosing the ideal mattress firmness for side sleepers:
- Soft – Best for lightweight people under 130 lbs, especially petite side sleepers under 100 lbs. Avoid if over 150 lbs.
- Medium Soft – Ideal for average-weight side sleepers from 130 to 230 lbs. Provides a balance of cushioning and support.
- Medium Firm – Best for heavy side sleepers over 230 lbs who require enhanced support. Also works for combo sleepers.
- Firm – Usually too solid and uncomfortable for all-side sleepers. Recommended mainly for back and stomach sleepers.
In general, medium to medium soft mattresses provide the best mix of contouring comfort and robust support for the majority of side sleeping adults. Super plush soft often won’t have adequate support.
Here are tips for dialing in the right firmness level:
- Press into the mattress around the shoulder and waist areas. Look for 2 to 3 inches of cushioning comfort without excessive sinking.
- Lie down and insert a hand under your waist. Make sure a gap doesn’t form between your mattress and lower back.
- Test getting in and out of multiple positions during mattress shopping. Medium soft beds make this easiest.
- Bring your preferred pillow when testing mattresses. Make sure your head and neck remain aligned.
Finding the optimal balance of softness and support leads to the most comfortable and restful sleep for side sleepers. Don’t assume you need an ultra soft mattress without checking the firmness guidelines first.
Other Factors in Choosing a Side Sleeping Mattress
Along with firmness, consider these mattress qualities for side sleepers:
Responsiveness – Beds with some bounce or responsiveness make it easier to change positions. Look for latex or hybrid options.
Edge Support – Reinforced edges allow you to sleep towards the side without feeling like you’ll roll off.
Motion Isolation – Memory foam or hybrids limit motion transfer so you won’t feel your partner move during the night.
Contouring Comfort Layers – Top foam layers should cushion your curves without sagging excessively.
Shapeable Support Core – The base layer should conform enough to fill in the space beneath your waist.
Breathability – Look for cooling gels, airflow channels, or coils to prevent heat retention.
Finding a mattress suited for side sleepers goes beyond getting the firmness correct. But getting the softness versus support right is key to keeping your spine aligned.
Mattress Alternatives to Softer Beds
If you find super soft mattresses don’t offer enough support, consider these alternatives that may work better for side sleepers:
Latex Mattresses – Natural or blended latex is responsive, cradling, and durable. It avoids the sinking issues of memory foam.
Hybrid Mattresses – Coils paired with 2 to 3 inches of foam provide an ideal balance of pressure relief and healthy alignment.
Medium Firm Memory Foam – Heat-wicking memory foam around 5 pounds density offers contouring without sagging too much.
Adjustable Air Beds – Customizable firmness allows side sleepers to find the right setting. The addition of foam makes air beds more comfortable.
Medium Pillow Top – Adds softness to an innerspring bed without allowing excessive sinking. But coils should also respond to your waist.
Avoid ultrasoft, all-foam beds if you are a dedicated side sleeper. A responsive, reinforced design will keep your body on top of the mattress instead of deeply embedded in it.
FAQs About Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers
What is the best mattress firmness for a side sleeper?
Most side sleepers do best with a medium soft to medium mattress. This provides enough cradling pressure relief without letting your spine dip too low. Exact needs vary based on body type and preferences.
Is firm or soft better for side sleepers?
Neither very firm or very soft mattresses are ideal for side sleepers. Firm causes pressure points but soft lacks support. The best option is typically medium soft to medium firmness.
Can side sleepers have a firm mattress?
Most side sleepers prefer a softer mattress. But firm mattresses around an 8/10 firmness can work for heavier side sleepers over 230 lbs if they have enough padding on top. Medium firm is usually the better match.
Do you need a soft mattress for side sleeping?
Not necessarily. While side sleepers need pressure relief, super soft mattresses can lack the support needed to keep your spine aligned. A medium soft to medium mattress is usually a better option.
Is memory foam or hybrid better for side sleepers?
It depends on your preferences, but many side sleepers prefer the responsiveness of a hybrid mattress. The coils offer more support while the memory foam comfort layer cushions pressure points.
While a soft mattress may seem like the obvious choice for side sleeping, the best mattress is one that also provides robust support to keep your spine properly aligned. Otherwise, the plush softness can backfire and lead to more aches and pains.
Look for a mattress around medium soft to medium firmness. This allows enough sinking for pressure relief but keeps your body elevated for even support. Add reinforced edges and cooling technologies for better comfort. Responsiveness from latex or coils also aids movement.
Focus on how the mattress cradles your shoulders yet keeps your waist lifted when testing models in person. This balance of contouring and support allows side sleepers to wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Ready to find the perfect mattress for side sleeping? Check out our top picks suited for side sleepers. We offer options that blend pressure relief and healthy alignment so you can sleep comfortably. Browse our reviews today to find a mattress guaranteed to meet the needs of side sleepers.